Blu-ray/DVD Reviews


Currently showing posts tagged Hammer Horror

  • The Skull (1965) Blu-ray Review

    The Skull (1965)

    Director: Freddie Francis

    Starring: Peter Cushing, Patrick Wymark, Nigel Green, Jill Bennett, Michael Gough, George Coulouris & Christopher Lee

    Released by: KL Studio Classics

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Based on a story by Robert Bloch (Psycho), The Skull centers on occult antiquities collector Dr. Christopher Maitland (Peter Cushing, Horror of Dracula) whose encounter with the skull of the Maquis de Sade proves frightening.  Forewarned of its effects by friend and former owner of the dreaded remains, Matthew Phillips (Christopher Lee, The Curse of Frankenstein), Maitland’s livelihood quickly becomes threatened by the skull’s evil forces.

    A supernatural mystery produced by noted Hammer competitor Amicus Productions, The Skull is a stylishly eerie effort from British genre titan Freddie Francis (The Evil of Frankenstein, Tales from the Crypt) that utilizes atmosphere and improvisational knowhow to its advantage.  Following a historically earlier pre-title sequence where a grave robber’s excavation of the Maquis de Sade’s cranium leaves him dead from an unknown presence, The Skull’s modern day London setting introduces occult collector Dr. Christopher Maitland whose pricy offering of the very same specimen by a shady dealer proves far too expensive albeit, very intriguing to the curious researcher.  Learning the item was stolen from a fellow colleague who was glad to be free of it, warnings of its evil capabilities fall on Maitland’s deaf ears, prompting him to retrieve it after the thieving dealer is unexplainably killed.  Casting a spell of madness and nightmarish hallucinations upon on its new owner, Maitland’s terrifying firsthand experience with the skull reveals its true potential to the previously skeptical scholar.  Headlining the feature with expected grace, Peter Cushing sells his descent into terror with a conviction memorably showcased during a particularly nail biting nightmare sequence of forced Russian roulette.  Appearing in a guest starring role, Christopher Lee’s small but welcome inclusion as a rare non-villain gives an added class to the film’s ghoulish festivities while, Francis’ resourceful direction, demonstrated in the film’s frantic and virtually dialogue-free final act, is overwhelmingly suspenseful regardless of the “floating” skull’s noticeably seen wires.  An early chapter in Amicus’ horror history, The Skull remains an effectively strong picture of its creepy caliber with its direction earning the most praise of all.

    KL Studio Classics presents The Skull with a 1080p transfer, preserving its 2.35:1 aspect ratio.  Bearing noticeable signs of scuffs and speckles throughout its runtime, colors also appear occasionally drab while, skin tones and delicate facial features revealing aging lines and acne scars are well-detailed.  Meanwhile, black levels are mediocre yet, costume textures and the many artifacts spotted in Maitland’s library are agreeable.  Although a fresh scan would have been appreciated, the results remain quite adequate.  Equipped with a rather flat but serviceable DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix, dialogue is handled sufficiently while an early encounter between Maitland and Marco, the sleazy dealer, registers slightly lower.  Scoring cues are decent but lacking oomph with a mild layer of hiss detected.  Special features include, an expertly researched Audio Commentary with Film Historian Tim Lucas, Jonathan Rigby on The Skull (24:14) and Kim Newman on The Skull (27:18), both of which offer encyclopedic insight into Amicus Productions, its founders, Freddie Francis and Robert Bloch’s original short story making each featurette invaluable compliments to the film.  Furthermore, The Skull: “Trailers from Hell” with Joe Dante (2:36) and additional Trailers for Tales of Terror (2:21), The Oblong Box (1:56), Madhouse (1:48), House of the Long Shadows (2:27) and The Crimson Cult (2:03) are also provided alongside Reversible Cover Art.

    A well recommended Amicus offering, The Skull brings some of gothic cinema’s finest faces together for chilling thrills and consummate direction from Freddie Francis making it a technical sight to appreciate given the film’s originally less than solid screenplay.  Possession, death and the black arts reign wildly in this nightmare come to life with a most fascinating selection of supplements making KL Studio Classics’ upgrade of the film an easy choice for fan’s unholy collections.

    RATING: 3.5/5

    Available now from KL Studio Classics, The Skull can be purchased via, and other fine retailers.

  • Burying the Ex (2014) Blu-ray Review

    Burying the Ex (2014)

    Director: Joe Dante

    Starring: Anton Yelchin, Ashley Greene, Alexandra Daddario & Oliver Cooper

    Released by: RLJ Entertainment

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    From the director of Gremlins, Burying the Ex centers on monster movie aficionado Max (Anton Yelchin, Star Trek) and his beautiful, environmentally devoted girlfriend Evelyn (Ashley Greene, Twilight).  Shortly after moving in together, Max grows weary of Evelyn’s controlling personality but, becomes fearful of calling it quits with her.  By freakish fate, Evelyn is killed in an accident, allowing Max to carry on with his life and fall for likeminded horror movie hottie Olivia (Alexandra Daddario, San Andreas).  Unfortunately, Evelyn returns from the grave to reclaim her boyfriend at all costs.  

    Based on the 2008 short film starring John Francis Daley (Freaks and Geeks), Burying the Ex brings horror and hilarity to the unpleasant practice of breaking up.  Starring Anton Yelchin as monster fanatic Max with the inability to break up with his “go green” obsessed girlfriend Evelyn (Greene), the scooter-rider has fate do his dirty work for him when Evelyn is tragically killed in a freak accident.  Equally distraught and relieved, Max carries on with his life and finds love again with fellow horror fan and ice cream parlor owner Olivia (Daddario).  While juggling his mundane position at a local horror-themed costume shop, Max’s encounter with a satanic genie lamp comes back to haunt him when his dreaded ex returns from the grave to reclaim what is hers.  Attempting to make his new relationship work while, procrastinating to sever ties with his recently deceased former flame, Max finds himself in six foot deep of trouble.  With its trendy references to horror movie history feeling heavy handed at times, Burying the Ex still delivers an offbeat, quirky effort of young love that won’t die.  Nicely cast with Yelchin and Daddario capturing worthwhile chemistry while, Greene entertains as the eco-friendly love interest before comically flying off the rails with jealousy as the rotting remains of her former self.  In addition, Oliver Cooper (Runner Runner) steals scenes as Max’s half-brother Travis with a weakness for women and a hilarious distaste for Evelyn.

    After a five year film hiatus, Director Joe Dante (The Howling, Matinee) returns once again proving his ability to relate to young souls still has a pulse.  With background appearances from Hammer horror classics and B-movie favorites like Plan 9 From Outer Space, Burying the Ex makes Dante’s love for genre pictures apparent as the director’s encyclopedic knowledge seeps into the character’s adoration for Val Lewton and George A. Romero’s Night of the Living Dead.  Simple in its execution with several laughs to be had, Burying the Ex refuses to take itself seriously much to the delight of viewers.  With a youthful cast and Dante’s anarchically fun direction on display, Burying the Ex is well worth digging up.

    RLJ Entertainment presents Burying the Ex with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 2.40:1 aspect ratio.  Digitally produced, Dante’s latest opus appears with natural skin tones and exceptional detail allowing for maximum appreciation of facial details and Greene’s deathly makeup.  In addition, black levels are inky and pleasing with sequences in the Hollywood Forever Cemetery free of any crushing. Meanwhile, colors from Max’s lime green apartment to Daddario’s stunning blue eyes pop off the screen with wonderful clarity.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix, dialogue is perfectly audible while, bone cracking sound effects and embalming fluid spewing make their presence effectively known.  Musical selections offer a healthy boost to the track with the sequence at the goth-themed Club Death injecting a heavy bass groove.  Unfortunately, no special features are included.

    Fun and reminiscent of Dante’s earlier teen-centered efforts, Burying the Ex blends horror and romance for an entertaining love triangle, left better off dead.  While its screenplay may slightly stumble, the entertaining performances and Dante’s love affair with horror and hijinks pick up the slack with ease.  RLJ Entertainment delivers this comical look at the undead with a superb high-definition transfer and top-notch audio merits that will leave viewers more than satisfied.  Resurrected from the grave, Burying the Ex will satisfy fans of Dante’s zany filmography and cartoony sensibilities.

    RATING: 4/5

    Available July 28th exclusively at Best Buy, Burying the Ex can also be purchased on DVD August 4th from and other fine retailers.